The Domestic Worker Rights Initiative;
May 1, 2015
The Domestic Worker Rights group was created because of concern about problems faced by domestic workers in Needham and in other cities and towns throughout the State. The concern extends to both documented and undocumented workers.
On July 2, 2014 Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill of rights for domestic workers, making Massachusetts the fourth state in the US to provide protections for nannies, adult care assistants, and assistants for the disabled. On April 1, 2015 the Attorney General issued a draft set of regulations, which will be finalized after a hearing on May 8, 2015. When the final regulations are in hand, a Forum will be held, cosponsored by the Needham Area Immigration Justice Task Force, the League of Women Voters of Needham, the Needham Faith Communities, and the Needham Human Rights Committee. The challenge will be to ensure that all private employers of domestic workers are aware of their legal obligations to provide the protections to this group that are already provided to all other classes of workers. The omission of domestic workers from the protections provided other workers stems from their designation in national legislation during the 1970’s as “companions”. Companion vastly understates the scope, the responsibility, and the importance of what these workers provide.
Ongoing Problems: Undocumented Workers
Significant numbers of domestic workers fall into the undocumented category and are not specifically addressed in the above legislation. For them the following problems remain:
- Insufficient access to medical care. Although they are all entitled to emergency care, only the children and pregnant women are entitled to routine primary/preventive care in Needham. Other adults must be referred to Community Health Centers in other geographic areas. As a result some adults are at risk of receiving costly and uncoordinated care or no care at all.
- Absence of a safety net that includes Workers’ Compensation Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, or access to MCAD or OSHA.
- Lack of access to a Social Security Account and any expectation of retirement benefits. Ironically, they are permitted to contribute to a special account without any assurance that they can access benefits on reaching retirement age.
- Inability to get a valid Massachusetts driver’s license
Opportunities to get involved with the Domestic Worker’s Rights initiative:
- Attend workshops and forums directed toward raising the consciousness of employers of domestic workers regarding best practices in the employer-worker relationship and, in the near future, legally required obligations
- Become an English language tutor with the Needham Community Council, which offers English as a second language to immigrant workers who live or work in Needham.
- Learn about pending legislation that affects domestic workers whether immigrant or non-immigrant.
- Join the Needham Area Immigration Justice Task Force
Point Person: Eleanor Shore firstname.lastname@example.org